Government to clampdown on fake reviews and hidden fees

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A series of consultations have been launched this week aimed at cracking down on fake reviews, hidden fees and confusing labels.

The first seeks views on measures to ban fake reviews, as initially announced in the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill (DMCC).

The aim is to ensure that consumers and business continue to benefit from reviews that represent a genuine experience, while stamping out the purchase and sales of fake reviews, and ensuring firms take an appropriate level of responsibility for reviews on their websites.

A separate consultation aims to tackle hidden fees, for example, on food deliveries. It follows research commissioned by the government which highlights the practice of “drip pricing” – where the price paid at checkout is higher than originally advertised due to extra fees.

According to the research it is “widespread”, and occurs in more than half of providers in the hospitality (56%) industry.

Kevin Hollinrake, minister for enterprise, markets and small business, said: “Today’s measures will help people keep hold of their hard-earned cash and ensure they have the clearest and most accurate information upfront before they make a purchase.

“From the shelves of supermarkets to digital trolleys, modern-day shopping provides a great wealth of choice. But fake reviews and hidden fees can make those choices increasingly confusing and leaves customers unsure about what product is right for them.

“We’ll be listening to industry to ensure these new regulations work for businesses too and don’t generate unnecessary burdens, while at the same time providing a crucial safety net for consumers and their cash.”

The final consultation looks at how to simplify labelling on goods, with proposals to reform the Price Marking Order (PMO).

The PMO requires businesses to display the final selling price and, where appropriate the final unit price (e.g. price per litre/kilogram) of products in a clear way.

The government says these changes will ensure unit pricing is consistently applied, including to promotions and special offers, helping consumers compare products easily and identify what items represent the best value to them.

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